With Apple expected to unveil its rumored tablet at the end of January, the debate over the usefulness of such a gadget has reached a fever pitch. Betanews's Joe Wilcox lit the fire by declaring that the world doesn't need an Apple tablet or any other tablet for that matter, drawing plenty of venomous responses. Maybe I've come too close to the Steve Jobs reality distortion field, but I'm starting to come around to the tablet logic. Here are five ways I might use this newfangled product:
On the Couch
This seems like the most basic use of a tablet, because it's where we all end up after a long day of work. On one hand, couch Web browsing is the most trivial argument for tablets, because a netbook can do the same thing; but I already favor my iPhone, with its single, lightweight panel, for this kind of casual use. A bigger screen would be nice.
On the Airplane
Using a laptop on an airplane is miserable. You can get by for a few minutes just as you reach cruising altitude, but then the guy in front if you reclines his seat all the way back, and there's not enough room to keep your computer at a comfortable viewing distance without tilting the monitor forward so it's practically folded up. And all of this assumes you want your tray table down the whole time. Give me a tablet to hold at any angle as I try to get comfortable in those torturous seats. (Can you tell I traveled recently?)
As a Bedside E-Reader
I'm with Steve Jobs, who in September told David Pogue that dedicated devices will ultimately lose to more versatile products. So I basically want an e-reader that can do more than just read books. When that product exists, I'll be happy to curl up with it before going to bed.
On Long Car Trips
This is a few years down the road for me personally, but as a child of the original Game Boy generation, pleading with my parents to turn on the car light so I could see that disgusting green screen, I'd have loved an interactive device like the tablet instead of an in-car DVD player. Ideally, the screen would be big enough for two kids to share when watching a movie, while also making a convenient GPS device when traveling alone.
At My Desk?
Tech pundits are speculating that Apple's going for the home run with the tablet. It's not just a niche gadget for the uses I've described above, but an attempt to transform the entire computing industry, they say. On some level, it makes sense. I'm already envisioning taking the tablet on planes, cars, and trains, and using it everywhere around the house (perhaps, even, the toilet). Using it as a full-blown PC seems like the next logical step, but I'm not seeing a smooth transition from handheld to desktop device. We'll likely see what Apple has in mind on January 26.